Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Ricochet Essay Question of the Weekend, or, Michelangelo for Sale?

 

Pieta For SaleLet us suppose that a rich man — a very, very rich man, such as, for example, Jack Ma, who possesses a net worth of some $20 billion — makes a straightforward proposition to the Vatican.

Aware that Pope Francis speaks constantly about the plight of the poor, an inspired by the Morris West novel, Shoes of the Fisherman, which culminates in a decision by the pope of the day to sell all the Vatican’s treasures to avert a famine, Mr. Ma has decided to make an offer for one Vatican treasure in particular: the Pieta.

If Pope Francis will sell him the Pieta, Mr. Ma says, he will pay, let us say, $5 billion. That would be by far the highest amount ever paid for a work of art, Mr. Ma acknowledges, but the Pieta is perhaps one of the half dozen most magnificent pieces of art ever created — and, since he knows the money will go to the poor, Mr. Ma explains, he has no intention of quibbling.

In return for Michelangelo’s masterpiece, $5 billion that Pope Francis could use to relieve the sufferings of the poor.

Should the Pontiff accept the offer?

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  1. Illiniguy Member
    Illiniguy Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    His decision would certainly settle the question of whether his motivations are truly spiritual.

    **UPDATE** While reading the comments it dawned on me that the one thing we aren’t talking about is the usurpation of the Church’s role in providing for the poor by the welfare state. Think of how much greater the Church’s appeal would be if it didn’t have to compete with Caesar for alms from the faithful. That the Church would sell some of mankind’s greatest artworks for the benefit of the poor is no different than the argument that if the government seized all of the wealth of the top 1%, it would eliminate the deficit in one fell swoop. It would, for a year, and then where do they go to get the next year’s money? Selling the Pieta would feed the poor for a year, then what does it sell, the Sistine Chapel?

    • #1
    • October 3, 2015, at 9:08 AM PDT
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  2. katievs Member
    katievs Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Of course no.

    The poor need beauty too. And it’s not so much money the Pope wants for them from us as attention and care and openness.

    He wants us to open ourselves to the poor not only because they need us, but because we need them.

    • #2
    • October 3, 2015, at 9:12 AM PDT
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  3. The (apathetic) King Prawn Inactive

    Yes.

    How is this an essay question? Seems more like a true/false.

    • #3
    • October 3, 2015, at 9:14 AM PDT
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  4. The (apathetic) King Prawn Inactive

    katievs: The poor need beauty too.

    Can’t eat beauty.

    • #4
    • October 3, 2015, at 9:15 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  5. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    He should definitely make the sale. But then the question is, what is the best use of the money? If you have $5 billion at your disposal for the purpose of alleviating poverty, just how do you use it? Fortunately, the Vatican is chock full of scholars and I assume many of them have studied economics. I suppose before committing all of the money, you could allocate some to the group who advocates free-market principles and an equal amount to the group that advocates socialism. Let them each set up the anti-poverty programs that make the most sense to them. Track the results and see which programs lift families out of poverty so that they are self-sufficient and able to help others, see which programs feed people but keep them reliant on charity.

    Of course, what works in Bolivia may not work in Romania.

    • #5
    • October 3, 2015, at 9:16 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  6. The (apathetic) King Prawn Inactive

    What access do the poor have to that beauty anyway?

    • #6
    • October 3, 2015, at 9:17 AM PDT
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  7. katievs Member
    katievs Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Wasn’t it Judas who complained about the penitent woman pouring costly oil onto Jesus’ head, on the grounds that it was money that could have been given to the poor?

    Isn’t that when Jesus said, “The poor you will always have with you”?

    • #7
    • October 3, 2015, at 9:18 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  8. BrentB67 Inactive

    Peter, why sell the pieta? It isn’t as though the Catholic Church is destitute and short of cash and means to help alleviate poverty.

    • #8
    • October 3, 2015, at 9:19 AM PDT
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  9. The (apathetic) King Prawn Inactive

    katievs:Wasn’t it Judas who complained about the penitent woman pouring costly oil onto Jesus’ head, on the grounds that it was money that could have been given to the poor?

    Isn’t that when Jesus said, “The poor you will always have with you”?

    Didn’t Jesus also say the oil was used to anoint him for burial? What purpose does art behind the guarded walls of the Vatican serve?

    • #9
    • October 3, 2015, at 9:20 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  10. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    No.

    “The poor” is the biggest sink hole there is.

    The Pope should settle for no less than 20 trillion.

    • #10
    • October 3, 2015, at 9:22 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  11. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    The capital gains tax would be huge.

    • #11
    • October 3, 2015, at 9:28 AM PDT
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  12. Larry Koler Inactive

    I think that if the Pope is worried about capitalism’s poor use of money then the answer is yes and he can show us the proper use of money.

    However, if his worry about capitalism is that it in itself damages men’s souls then the answer is no because this is to acknowledge that money can do very little that is lasting with regard to poverty. As Jimmy Carter above rightly says poverty is a sinkhole for money because it comes from a sinkhole in man, a hole that is not able to be filled from what money can buy.

    Anyone know for certain which of the two criticisms are the pope’s? I worry that it is the first one which is a socialist’s indictment.

    • #12
    • October 3, 2015, at 9:48 AM PDT
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  13. Susan in Seattle Member
    Susan in Seattle Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    The King Prawn:

    katievs:Wasn’t it Judas who complained about the penitent woman pouring costly oil onto Jesus’ head, on the grounds that it was money that could have been given to the poor?

    Isn’t that when Jesus said, “The poor you will always have with you”?

    Didn’t Jesus also say the oil was used to anoint him for burial? What purpose does art behind the guarded walls of the Vatican serve?

    KP: The Pieta is not “behind the guarded walls of the Vatican.” It is out in the open in St. Peter’s Basilica for all who would venture there to see.

    • #13
    • October 3, 2015, at 9:50 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  14. katievs Member
    katievs Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    The King Prawn:

    katievs: The poor need beauty too.

    Can’t eat beauty.

    Well, no. But “man does not live by bread alone.”

    • #14
    • October 3, 2015, at 9:51 AM PDT
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  15. katievs Member
    katievs Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Susan in Seattle:

    The King Prawn:

    KP: The Pieta is not “behind the guarded walls of the Vatican.” It is out in the open in St. Peter’s Basilica for all who would venture there to see.

    And, it’s free.

    Think of the money that could be made and given to the poor if only the Vatican would charge a fee! (Throngs flock to it daily.)

    Why don’t they get money for it? Because the Pieta doesn’t belong to the Pope; it belongs to the world.

    Some things shouldn’t be commodified.

    • #15
    • October 3, 2015, at 9:53 AM PDT
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  16. FightinInPhilly Thatcher

    I’ve been writing in my spare time and actually have a screenplay about this very subject. I’m no Rob Long, but if anyone is curious, send me a PM and I’ll send you a .pdf- love to hear your impressions. (I’m current revising in advance of submitting it to a few contests.)

    In answer to Peter’s question, why not sell them in the form of a bond the way David Bowie did with his music catalogue? Take the money now, alleviate poverty over the next 25 years.

    • #16
    • October 3, 2015, at 9:54 AM PDT
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  17. The (apathetic) King Prawn Inactive

    katievs:

    Susan in Seattle:

    The King Prawn:

    KP: The Pieta is not “behind the guarded walls of the Vatican.” It is out in the open in St. Peter’s Basilica for all who would venture there to see.

    And, it’s free.

    Think of the money that could be made and given to the poor if only the Vatican would charge a fee!

    Why don’t they charge? Because the Pieta doesn’t belong to the Pope; it belongs to the world.

    Some things shouldn’t be commodified.

    I still don’t get what this does for anyone. Maybe I’m just hard hearted (always a distinct possibility), but I really don’t understand the Church or any church amassing treasures on earth then casting hellfire and brimstone over their congregants for their greed.

    If seeing this particular piece of art is such a boon to the soul, then why not send it all around the world? Surely the poor in Africa and South America and even China should see it if it’s that big of a deal or that much of a spiritual blessing.

    • #17
    • October 3, 2015, at 9:57 AM PDT
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  18. Spin Inactive
    Spin Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Save the bull, honor Maximus.

    • #18
    • October 3, 2015, at 10:22 AM PDT
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  19. Gloating Member

    Does anyone recall the scene from “The Freshman” . Carmine (“the Toucan”) ( Marlon Brando ) has Matthew Broderick come to his house in Queens to get his daughter and he sees the Mona Lisa on the wall..as he admires it and says something like it looks so real, the daughter says that IS the Mona Lisa….remember when it came to the Worlds’ Fair in Queens? Well her father Carmine got it and placed a pretty good copy of it in its place at the Louvre. I thought that was one of the funniest scenes ever, with Nat King Cole music playing.

    So my point is, why not make a great copy, let the sale go through, and no one will be the wiser. How they use the money is a different story all together.

    • #19
    • October 3, 2015, at 10:27 AM PDT
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  20. katievs Member
    katievs Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    The Church isn’t amassing treasures on earth; she’s preserving them, cherishing them, and sharing them with anyone who comes.

    Here are more things the poor can’t eat, but need:

    – truth, justice, liberty, dignity, peace, friendship, love, hope, mercy

    What does beauty do for the person? It irrigates the soul. It softens the heart. It pierces the conscience. It bespeaks God. It lifts our aspirations beyond this workaday world to eternity.

    Two years ago we spent two weeks in Rome. A cousin of mine works at the Vatican. He got us into the basilica during a papal audience, when it was closed to the public and practically empty. We walked through it overwhelmed, hearts full of awe and gratitude. Our sixteen year old son asked if he could wander off for a bit. He wanted some time alone with the Pieta.

    IMG_0966

    • #20
    • October 3, 2015, at 10:30 AM PDT
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  21. Karen Inactive

    Some things are priceless, and the Pieta qualifies. It’s a cultural treasure. The Pieta isn’t the Pope’s to sell, anyway. I doubt the Vatican can even carry insurance on its art holdings. The insurance cost would be astronomical. Besides, the US would spot the Vatican $5 billion or even $20 billion. A better compromise would be to sell Ma the right to scan the Pieta and create a 3-d print of it.

    • #21
    • October 3, 2015, at 10:35 AM PDT
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  22. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    There’s nothing in Peter’s scenario that suggests what the new owner would do with the artwork. It’s quite possible that he would put it on display for the world.

    • #22
    • October 3, 2015, at 10:36 AM PDT
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  23. Larry Koler Inactive

    Peter is asking a question of principle and we should deal with that.

    • #23
    • October 3, 2015, at 10:42 AM PDT
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  24. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge

    No,
    You folks do not really understand the Church’s place and mission in the world.
    The Church could sell everything it has, art, property, historical documents, knowledge, etc and there would still be the poor. But after it sold everything, destroyed all that property, art, history, knowledge, etc, how would it be able to fulfill it long term mission?

    • #24
    • October 3, 2015, at 10:43 AM PDT
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  25. Kay of MT Member

    katievs: Well, no. But “man does not live by bread alone.”

    Without bread man wouldn’t live at all.

    Everything else is subject to interpretation. I’ll never see any of the great works of art except by photographs or film.

    • #25
    • October 3, 2015, at 10:45 AM PDT
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  26. Fern Inactive

    Karen :A better compromise would be to sell Ma the right to scan the Pieta and create a 3-d print of it.

    Something similar has already happened – the Vatican has authorized the creation of a mold & replicas, which are being placed in schools and churches around the world.

    Edit: this might be a more informative link.

    • #26
    • October 3, 2015, at 10:45 AM PDT
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  27. Man With the Axe Member

    The King Prawn: If seeing this particular piece of art is such a boon to the soul, then why not send it all around the world?

    I saw it at the New York World’s Fair in 1964 (OMG that was 51 years ago!), and again at the Vatican two years ago. It was quite a stirring thing to see.

    $5 billion wouldn’t make a dent in the needs of the poor. Better for Jack Ma’s money to be used productively to create jobs for poor people than for the Vatican to give it away.

    I say don’t sell it.

    • #27
    • October 3, 2015, at 10:48 AM PDT
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  28. Fern Inactive

    I haven’t read Shoes of the Fisherman, but does it end with the janitor from the Vatican Museums in line for a handout where he used to work and get a regular paycheck? That would be realistic, anyway.

    A better idea would be for the Vatican to open numerous museums in cities all over the world, displaying the works that they have in storage. This would create many jobs across a wide spectrum (from curators and art history majors to cafe workers and janitors) as well as provide opportunities for many more people to see works of beauty and cultural history. The museums could operate on a pay-what-you-can basis, so that even (especially?) the poor would be welcome.

    • #28
    • October 3, 2015, at 11:01 AM PDT
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  29. I Walton Member

    It’s really hard to give things away without doing harm. On the other hand the Church’s hospitals and schools are among the best, so I guess it depends on what you mean by feeding the poor. I like Fern’s suggestion. Museums should be free so one can just go see the one or two things one wants after having read about them instead of trying to get ones money’s worth in an exhausting romp. After all the marginal cost of one more patron is zero and it’s good for everyone to be exposed to genius of all sorts.

    • #29
    • October 3, 2015, at 11:22 AM PDT
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  30. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    The King Prawn:

    katievs:Wasn’t it Judas who complained about the penitent woman pouring costly oil onto Jesus’ head, on the grounds that it was money that could have been given to the poor?

    Isn’t that when Jesus said, “The poor you will always have with you”?

    Didn’t Jesus also say the oil was used to anoint him for burial? What purpose does art behind the guarded walls of the Vatican serve?

    Exactly the same purpose as the oil. It is a tribute to Christ. Why does even the humblest Protestant church adorn its interior with beautiful objects? To honor and glorify God.

    Since the time of Abraham, the peoples of God have adorned altars and temples erected for His glory. The ancient Jews offered their best lambs for slaughter. We too are called to return to Him our greatest valuables, like the poor woman who offered her last cent, in part so we never forget that every good thing comes from God.

    Why is a cathedral less appropriate for public viewing than a museum?

    The Church preserves and restores many historical treasures at great expense. If the Church was as wealthy as many believe, American dioceses would not be so often forced to sell their churches and consolidate their members.

    • #30
    • October 3, 2015, at 11:54 AM PDT
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